By Simon Wragg

FARMERS had reason to be optimistic; if they had survived the past five years the next five would be easier, producers were told at the Royal Show.

Speaking at the Lloyds TSB luncheon, Sean Rickard – agricultural economist at Cranfield School of Management – indicated that things are getting better.

After two poor years, exacerbated by UK not joining the Euro, commodity prices were at last moving in the right direction, helping to sow the seeds of recovery, he said.

“At last, the Pound is weakening, and that should continue.”

Although poor prices had forced many farmers to leave the industry, the shakeout had left room for others to expand and achieve greater efficiencies.

But future productivity would also rely on adopting technology and innovation, such as GMs, to remain competitive as world trade is freed up.

The rural crisis had increased governments attention and could lead to more funding for countryside development, particularly for value-added business.

That may pull farmers away from the core business of crops and livestock, but that was inevitable, he said.

The crisis had also forced a change in producers attitude to business, forcing many to concentrate on what they are good at and reduce costs and risk by contracting out other, less productive, tasks.

“But we must view the future as part of a food industry, not farmers versus the processors and retailers. Those sectors have been hit.

“We are all partners together, and whether we stand or fall will depend on how closely aligned we become,” he warned.

As a European trading block, Britains farmers ranked amongst the most efficient placing them in a strong position for future world trade, should Sterling continue to weaken, he added.